In essence, the law is gender neutral, therefore, single fathers are just as entitled to receive maintenance or financial support from their spouse as a single mother. However, there are two elements, the first relates to child maintenance, which is always payable by a non-resident parent, and spousal support, which is discretionary. Understanding your rights is essential when navigating the complexities of finances surrounding separation and divorce; read on for more information.
Am I entitled to child support if the children live with me?
Child support is paid by a non-resident parent to the parent with care in relation to the upkeep of the children, regardless of whether you were married or in a civil partnership. Payment of child maintenance is not optional, and is legally required.
Separated parents are encouraged to reach a private arrangement because they have the advantage of keeping lines of communication open and being quick to implement. But in the event that your ex refuses to pay, or if you cannot reach an agreement, then you can apply to The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) who will intervene. There is a fee for this service, but they do have the authority to locate individuals and enforce payment by employing various methods, such as via the court or attachment of earnings orders.
How much child maintenance will my ex have to pay?
The CMS calculates child maintenance by applying a specific rate to the payer’s gross income if it is between £200 and £800 per week. Under this rate, non-resident parents are required to pay:
- 1 child: 12% of gross weekly income
- 2 children: 16% of gross weekly income
- 3 or more children: 19% of gross weekly income
Reductions apply to the maintenance payable in line with the number of overnight stays the child has with the non-resident parent, and is also affected if you support a child from another relationship.
Am I entitled to spousal maintenance/support?
Spousal support is paid by the wealthier party to the other as a form of ongoing financial support. This can be via periodic payments on a monthly basis, paid as a lump sum, or offset against other assets if these are sufficient. If a wife earns more than her husband or is just wealthier, he may be awarded spousal support, although children notwithstanding, the court would expect him to find employment and earn a salary commensurate to his experience, qualifications, and skills at the earliest opportunity.
Where possible, the court will always try to effect a clean break between the parties, so spousal support may be a temporary arrangement paid until certain trigger events occur, such as a child finishing full time secondary education or university. But this could be lifelong, depending on a family’s circumstances, although this is rare. In most cases, the court will seek to end ongoing financial commitments between the parties as soon as it can.
If I can’t work because I’m looking after the children, will I get spousal maintenance/support?
As we’ve already discussed, the law is gender neutral, however, reality is more complex. Single fathers are still uncommon, and many experience gender stereotypes that insist it is their role to be out in the world breadwinning rather than looking after the children. Unfortunately, these attitudes are rife in society and can leak into the family courts. Magistrates and judges may not be as sympathetic as they could be, and you may have to make a strong case for spousal support. But if you are the one who is looking after the children day-to-day or if your ex is wealthier than you or has a significantly better paid job, you are equally entitled to receive financial support as your ex would be if the situation were reversed.
How much maintenance will my ex have to pay?
The level of spousal support mainly depends on your financial needs. For example, if you enjoyed a high standard of living during the marriage, and there are resources available, then your needs are likely to be interpreted generously, than a more modest relationship would be. However, there is no automatic right to an equal share of income unless your needs require it.
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